August 2013

August 9th, 2013 by Marlo Haas

Almost two years ago, my family and I moved over to Europe to support my husband’s career. A nomad at heart, I was excited by the prospect of change but nervous too. There were so many things to think about and my career was one of them. What would I do? How could I work in the same role as a training provider in a place where I can’t speak the language? Maybe I could take this opportunity to be a full-time mother to my daughter?

The truth is that this last thought was the most tempting. Having always been brilliant at taking on any and all guilt, becoming a mother only enhanced this rather unhelpful trait of mine. So why not use this relocation to put my money where my mouth is, let go of some of this unnecessary guilt and be there for my daughter?

In the end, I chickened out. Went straight to my manager and began to put in place an arrangement that would allow me to work remotely. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe I was afraid that despite having more time and head space, I wouldn’t be as good a mother as I wanted. Perhaps I was scared to lose my connection with Steps or the UK, or maybe the nomad in me isn’t as much of a wanderer as it used to be. Regardless of the reason, continue to work I did and it has been one of the best experiences of my career.

At first it was challenging. Technical difficulties, time differences (it’s amazing how much trouble a one hour difference can make), scheduling visits to the office for crucial meetings, arranging childcare when you no longer have that trusted network of friends around were some of the more obvious challenges. Then there were the more subtle ones, feeling forgotten when it came to joining projects, contributing to initiatives, even celebrating birthdays. For me, that was most difficult hurdle, figuring out how to keep my presence alive in the office. I remember thinking to myself just after the New Year, ‘It’s not worth it. Time to let go. Would anyone care anyway?!’ Melodramatic definitely, but I’d wager there are many remote workers who recognise that feeling.

Then, last summer, it all turned around. Things fell into place, communication improved, technical support became more reliable, my schedule began to develop a pattern and I established a network of people here who could not only help with childcare but dog care too. Life was good, at work and at home. So what changed? Ever since that time, I’ve been trying to pinpoint what it was that made everything click into place. There have been a few theories I’ve come up with but unfortunately no magic answer. Looking back, it was about having patience, persistence and a willingness to do things differently. Not just me but my colleagues as well. We all stuck it out and kept working at making things work. That’s what teamwork is truly about, not giving up on each other, despite our mistakes, character flaws or over-sensitivities. Or even our differences of opinion. With a strong sense of team, a company can be open to so many more possibilities, so many opportunities for growth.

I’m so pleased that my inner voice didn’t win on that dreary January day or I may have never realised what a unique and united team I have the privilege to be part of. Does this mean that I no longer want to be a full-time parent? Heck no, I still have days where I can think of nothing more appealing but now I’m more aware of the additional benefits that can come from being a working parent besides just the extra income each month. And that’s something to feel good, not guilty about.


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